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Maritrans, Inc. v. United States

ELR Citation: 29 ELR 21068
Nos. 96-483 C, 43 Fed. Cl. 86/(Fed. Cl., 03/11/1999)

The court holds that the passage of the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), which requires single-hulled oil tankers to be retrofitted with double hulls or be phased out of service, did not effect a taking of shipping companies' oil tankers. The court first holds that when the companies built or acquired the vessels at issue, they could not reasonably have anticipated that double hulls would be required during the estimated working lifetime of the vessels. The government argued that because the shipping and maritime industry has been regulated in the past, more regulations should be expected and that any investment-backed expectations on the companies' part was, therefore, unreasonable. Almost without exception, however, officials within the U.S. Coast Guard, the Maritime Administration, the academic community, and the entire maritime industry did not foresee the advent of double hulls. The court next holds that although a mere diminution in value or reduction in attractiveness to potential purchasers is not enough to justify compensation for a facial taking, a taking may nevertheless exist.

The court then holds that mere passage of the OPA did not result in a taking. The Fifth Amendment does not mandate compensation for takings that are scheduled to take place in the future. The economic loss arguably suffered by the companies is the result of markedly decreased expectations concerning the vessels' value through their ability to generate revenue. Because this loss is not the result of a taking that has already occurred, it does not mandate the payment of just compensation. The court then dismisses the case because there is no reason to hold a trial on the economic impact of the regulation at issue with respect to the companies' vessels when none of the vessels has been retired.

[A prior decision in this litigation is published at 28 ELR 21206.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Laurie A. Frost
Law Offices of Laurie A. Frost
106 N. Fayette St., Alexandria VA 22314
(703) 739-9706

Counsel for Defendant
Lauren S. Moore
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000